Analysis | 4 Penn State women’s basketball players who need to switch gears in the 2022-23 season | Penn State Basketball News

If the 2021-22 season for Penn State has proven anything, it’s that its players haven’t always stepped up when they needed to.

Reduced by an eight-game losing streak from January 23 to February 13, the Lady Lions will have some major improvements to make for next season.

Guard Makenna Marisa was the only glimmer of light in the weak 11-18 season for the blues and whites.

The main struggle for the Lady Lions was their inability to compete with Big Ten teams, as they finished with a 5-13 record in the conference.

There were players outside of Marisa who sometimes found their rhythm, but they failed to maintain it throughout the season.

Here are the four players who have shown they can play at a high level but will need to do so more consistently if the team is to take the next step.

Tova Sabel

Entering her sophomore year, guard Tova Sabel had a solid foundation to build on after putting together a strong rookie campaign, which saw her average 5.0 points, 2.1 rebounds and 0.8 assists per game.

When that second season rolled around, she maintained similar numbers and didn’t really manage to build on her freshman stats.

Standing at 5-foot-10, Sabel averaged 10.8 points, 4.7 rebounds, 1.6 assists and 1.2 steals per game heading into Happy Valley.

One likely reason Sabel struggled to get things done was because of the inconsistent number of minutes given to him each night. For example, she went from playing 31 minutes in a start against Northwestern to just seven in the team’s next two games combined.

The Northwestern game was the only start the Swedish guard saw in its second season, playing 26 of the unit’s 29 games.

Sabel’s best game last season came against Minnesota on Feb. 27 when she went 7-for-8 from the field and finished with 19 points in 24 minutes.

Going into his third year, Sabel will be looking to earn more consistent minutes and contribute more consistently offensively.

Penn State forward Kayla Thomas (12) battles for the ball against an Illinois player during their game January 16, 2022 at the Bryce Jordan Center in State College, Pennsylvania. Penn State won the game 90-72.

Ymke Brouwer

Ymke Brouwer couldn’t prove herself in her first year as she dealt with an injury that lasted the whole season.

Brouwer’s forward Penn State numbers should give staff plenty to look forward to in the 2022-23 season. The Swiss native averaged 16.4 points, 7.3 rebounds and 2.4 assists per game as a professional in Switzerland.

The 6-foot forward was also rated a 4-star rookie by Blue Star Europe before heading to Penn State.

It’s clear why Coach Carolyn Kieger picked Brouwer, with her forward Penn State stats speaking for themselves. At the dawn of her first real season with the Blue and Whites, Brouwer will have to earn her place in the team, like all the other players.

However, expect her to get significant minutes from the jump as the team needs a player of Brouwer’s caliber to help them win more games.

Kayla Thomas

Kayla Thomas had plenty of competition ahead of her first year as Lady Lion with two well-established stretch centers including Ali Brigham and Anna Camden ahead of her on the depth chart.

One major area Thomas can contribute to in the future is on the boards, where Penn State ranked second-worst in the conference — averaging just 33.2 rebounds per game.

Standing at 6-foot-3, Thomas was tied with Camden as the team’s second-tallest athlete last year. His size alone should help the team earn more rebounds as they gain more minutes.

Height also plays a big role in how a team protects the paint and stifles the opponent’s ability to score baskets. This is an area where Penn State’s defense will need to improve, as it gave up the third-highest shooting percentage in the Big Ten last year.

Thomas’s ability to contribute partly depends on her earning more minutes in the upcoming campaign. She averaged just 7.4 minutes last year in 18 games played.

In her limited minutes, the Maryland native averaged 1.8 points and 1.4 rebounds per game — which isn’t too bad after all.

Maybe Thomas can answer the bell and provide the above-average forward depth the team desperately needs.

Maddie Burke

Despite playing a decent number of minutes, then-sophomore Maddie Burke didn’t start at all last season.

In less than 15 minutes in a game off the bench, the 6-foot guard averaged 2.8 points and 1.7 rebounds per game – while tallying 26 assists, 10 blocks and 17 steals on the year.

It’s a big step back from her freshman year when she was a member of the conference freshman team and was chosen as the Big Ten’s sixth player of the year. In 24 games as a freshman, the Doylestown, Pennsylvania native started in 11 and averaged 8.9 assists and 3.5 rebounds.

It’s unclear why Burke didn’t start a single game in her second season with the team when she was clearly very productive in her freshman year.

At first glance, the problem doesn’t appear to be the player, but rather the decision not to develop the kind of stardom Burke has shown she can be in her first year with the program. For Penn State to succeed, Burke will need his third year to unfold more like his freshman year.

As Kieger finally looks to make a jump to Penn State, these four athletes should play a role in filling the team’s weaknesses.


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